The latest research reveals that 75% of the children raised in evangelical churches are leaving the faith. It appears that the church is hemorrhaging its children out into the culture. Did Peter know something that we don’t when he preached, “For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off…”(Acts 2:39)?
Having been a children’s ministry leader, and having met many children’s and youth ministry leaders over my 21 years of ministry, I can say that the efforts of the men and women who faithfully and lovingly serve on staff are not in question. In fact, the problems we see cannot be laid at the feet of these programs.
I submit that perhaps there are biblical principles that we’ve lost sight of. A renewed focus on these principles could make the difference in seeing Peter’s promise move from elusive dream to reality.
On one hand, Children’s and Youth ministry leaders increasingly are saying, “We’re doing all we can, but we can’t disciple children in one hour per week. We need parents to step up to the plate.” On the other hand, parents are maxed out, stressed out, and sometimes checked out of the daily process of making kingdom disciples of their covenant children.
The Word of God Provides The Solution In a Simple Pattern
What does God’s word tell us about how He expects us, through the power of His Holy Spirit, to establish covenant faithfulness in the home? I begin with a short story.
I remember one Christmas Eve getting quite frustrated with putting together a toy for my son. I finally, humiliatingly, after two hours of exasperation, found the directions and actually read them to learn that I had missed an important step. I imagine anyone reading this has had the same experience at some time or another. In some cases, the pieces are all there, but they aren’t put together in proper order. Either way, successful completion of the project remains elusive, until we read (or re-read) the directions.
What we need to do is “re-read” the directions for making disciples.
Very simply, it looks like this:
The Simple Pattern for Covenant Faithfulness in the Church and in the Home
1. There is a presupposed pattern in scripture, submitted to, pursued, and applied for God’s glory and our good, which rightly applied is not two but one central motive.
2. The aim of this pattern is heart-level obedience. (True godly desires verses bare-legalistic duty-oriented behavior).
3. Heart-level obedience is lived out through heart-level relationships with God and one another (“You shall love the Lord your God…and your neighbor”) which are the ultimate end to which we are all accountable.
4. This heart-level obedience and these relationships are not indiscriminate but maintained along covenantal lines (e.g. marriage and family).
5. The primary methodology of growth in regards to heart-level obedience and heart-level relationships is speaking the truth (the gospel) in love within these relationships, for which we are all accountable to know others and to be known by them.
6. This growth, otherwise referred to as sanctification or renewal in the likeness of Christ, involves putting off the old man with its lusts and putting on the new man (Christ in you). The love that comes from Christ to God and others, being rooted in the accomplishment of Christ and applied by faith, makes covenant faithfulness not only possible but expected, and not a burden but a joy.
7. God’s design is for each household to have a spiritual leader or ‘head of household’ (husband, father, single mother, or woman unequally yoked to a non-believer) who is tasked with the responsibility of overseeing this heart-level transformation for their households.
8. Overseers (elders) are men assigned to see to it that this transformation is being faithfully maintained in the broader Household of God (the Church). Practically speaking, overseers accomplish their jobs primarily by equipping and graciously holding responsible those (heads of households) whom God holds accountable.
How to Re-emphasize This Pattern
I will begin by stating what this pattern does not require. It does not require a jihad against church programs. Truth is, these programs can actually help facilitate the re-establishment of this pattern. But let’s be clear, absent this simple pattern being vigorously, intentionally, and faithfully maintained, these programs carry a load they were never intended to carry and as we have seen cannot fabricate covenant faithfulness.
What this pattern does require. Required is the vigorous, intentional, and faithful maintenance of this pattern because it represents what God has already clearly revealed in His word to guide us.
The place to start is with the establishment of this basic pattern of covenant faithfulness in the entire body of Christ. The big picture is beautifying the Church: the Bride of Christ. Do we really believe Ephesians 4:15-16? Are we building each other up by speaking the truth to one another in love? Faithful shepherding—and accountability—by the elders of the heads of households to fulfill their role is a clear biblical element that must be re-established if we are to accomplish covenant faithfulness and produce kingdom disciples.
Equipping spiritual heads of households to pursue covenant faithfulness in the home is not a ‘nice-to-have’, but a primary, foundational and absolutely mission- critical element in the church’s ministry.
This represents an exciting opportunity for elders, ministry leaders, head of households.
Scripture has given us a simple pattern that we must live in order to see Peter’s promise realized in our time…and beyond.